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Fresh Oil and Global Brunellos

Posted: Nov 22, 2006 10:28am ET

I'm back in Tuscany. It started as a cold and wet day, but the sun has finally broken through the clouds. The forest below my house is brilliant shades of yellow, orange and brown. The air is fresh and clean. It makes me want to light a fire and cuddle up with a warm red and someone special, like the Fox.

It also makes me want to taste the new olive oil. I got together last night with Luca Sanjust of Fattoria Petrolo and a couple of other friends. Luca brought a bottle of his freshly pressed extra-virgin olive oil. It was spicy and almost fruity, with a light buttery character. It was so good with plain, unsalted bread. We even put it over our grilled steaks! Luca sells most of his production to the famous British chef Jamie Oliver. You might have seen him on the television program The Naked Chef. Jamie is a great guy by the way. Down to earth and a good cook, too!

Anyway, I look forward to every meal to try the new oil at the moment. Every restaurant in the area has some. Many make their own.

It made me think about the dinner I had the other night with my sister in Connecticut. I bought her a bottle of olive oil from Liguria. It cost me $18, if I remember correctly. My step mother said that my sister was so happy to have such an oil because “it was much too expensive for her to afford” because she had to watch what she spent because of the children’s school … blah, blah, blah.

What? I pay school fees also, not too mention alimony, and I buy great olive oil, I thought to myself. And then I explained to my step mom that good olive oil is only the price of a good bottle of wine, and it lasts much longer. Hell, we spent $50 on wine that night. And it was gone in a couple of hours. The bottle of olive oil will last my sister for a month or so.

I always have three or four different olive oils going in my house. I like spicy or peppery Tuscan oils for salads, buttery oils from Sicily for meats and veggies, and delicate oils from Liguria for fish. Plus, I have a bottle of Biondi Santi and Sassicaia oil on the go as well. The latter is much cheaper than the wines and they last a lot longer. I can use it everyday!

As I am writing this, I have just received a text message on my mobile phone from a friend In Hong Kong saying he was drinking the 2001 Casanova di Neri Tenuta Nuova Brunello di Montalcino for dinner with wine collector Alex Wong and they were loving it. I had it for lunch with some Tuscan friends as well! Great stuff. Great wines are truly global!

My Vino Today

2001 Casanova di Neri Tenuta Nuova Brunello di Montalcino: I assume you have already read my official note. But this stuff is so gorgeous to drink and will continue to be great in the future. What’s amazing is that it evolves wonderfully in the glass and it is a fabulous example of pure Sangiovese. After I opened it, we tasted it right away and it showed perfumes of berries, minerals and spices. The palate was firm but elegant and refined. Beautiful balance, like a fine Burgundy. After about 20 minutes, the Brunello really increased in volume in the glass. It became velvety, round and even fruitier. And some of the fruit character turned to dark chocolate and raspberry. Wonderful wine. 97 points in this non-blind tasting.

Shaun A Robertson
Virginia Beach, VA —  November 22, 2006 1:29pm ET
As a new follower of wine, and a new subscriber as well, I find reading the contents online very entertaining. Being in Virginia, I have noticed that finding most wines in the top 100 to be very difficult. I enjoy pinots, cabs, and bourdeaux. I tried my first Italian this past week, and found it a little too spicy. However, I plan to get my hands on this years #1 ASAP. I will let it age awhile, then see what all the fuss was about. Thanks!
Robert Caruana Jr
East Islip, NY —  November 22, 2006 2:18pm ET
James - How do you compare the '01 Valdicava vs. the '01 Tenuta Nuova? What do you see as the main differences between the two, and which one do you personally prefer (if you had to choose between the two)?
Robert Fukushima
California —  November 22, 2006 2:19pm ET
I can see where it would be easy to forget that you lead a working stiff's, with the same bills, stresses and concerns in life just like the rest of us when you read the exploits in your blog. On the other hand, I can't begin to count the number of times I have had to attempt to explain why I need several different bottles or cans of cold pressed extra virgin olive oil, three types of coffee and who knows how many bottles and types of wine on hand. Sometimes cost matters, sometimes you just gotta live well, sometimes people just don't understand
Apj Powers
Dallas, TX —  November 22, 2006 3:39pm ET
While I'm no expert on IT olive oils, I did try some BR Cohn extra virgin olive oils from there Sonoma Valley Olive Hill Estate. Quite tasty. Not sure how it would stand up next to an authentic Italian but one of the folks at BR Cohn said the trees were up to 113yrs old! ps-one of the distributors is selling that Leoville Barton 03 at $2344/case =$195/btl. The Las Cases 03 $3512/case = $292/btl!! I find the 01 LB more reasonable at about $52/btl. Or how about the Latour 03 $7019/six-pk =$1169/btl!!!!! That is up $850/btl from about 4 months ago.
Alexander Wong
Hong Kong —  November 22, 2006 9:49pm ET
Hi James, yes we really enjoyed the wine. You are right in your tasting notes. Really well balanced and great elegance. You are greatly missed here! Looking forward to seeing you in Hong Kong soon!
Carole Wurster
New York —  November 22, 2006 11:22pm ET
Happy Thanksgiving, James. I'm looking forward to trying at least one of the wines that you have recommended. You are teaching me as much about the good things in life as you are about wine. In a word, thanks!When you visit Tolaini, please be sure to taste the olive oil. It is delicious.Carole Wurster, New York
Guus Hateboer
Netherlands —  November 23, 2006 3:29am ET
On my little roundtrip via Il Borro (your place) and Sette Ponti last August, I also visited Petrolo and bought some of their olive oil besides the Galatrona 2003 and Torrione 2000/2003. We have just opened a bottle of olive oil a week ago and it rules! Just awesome on some simple bruschette with a bit of garlic and tomato. Mwooah! Toscana governa!
Fred Daner
Tampa, Florida —  November 23, 2006 7:22am ET
James- what do you think of the 00 and 99 Casanova ?And if the 01 was your wine of the year, what was your Cigar of the year ??Fred
James Suckling
 —  November 23, 2006 11:29am ET
Fred: I would drink the 2000 and still hold on to the 1999 Casanova. Cigar of the Year? I am writing the story now for Cigar Aficionado...
Aart Schutten
Netherlands —  November 23, 2006 5:04pm ET
James, can only utterly agree to your description of Casanova 01. Had my first bottle 2 weeks ago and its just marvellous. And it does need the 20 minutes in the glass before you really experience its magnitude. Now I only regret I bought only 12 bottles of it this spring and find it now to be very hard to get some more. Robert: I have tasted Valdicava 01 this summer at their premises: it's gorgeous and equals Casanova 01 to me. It's just a difference in style: Casanova is more opulent, Valdicava more complex and refined. I guess Valdicava mighrt be the better wine 15 years from now, but Casanova 01 right now for me is the best of the two wines to drink. Cheers, Aart
November 23, 2006 7:05pm ET
James,Have you had the 99 Casanova Cerretalto lately?? How does this bottling compare to the 01 Tenuta Nuova??
Fred Daner
Tampa, Florida —  November 24, 2006 5:37am ET
Thanks James. Forget that the CA issue has not come out yet. Look forward to reading it. Have you ever made it to Tampa and Edwards Cigar shop ?Legendary place...
Dr Miguel Gimeno
Austria —  November 24, 2006 9:46am ET
Thankyou James for your comments on the price of a good bottle of olive oil.I am a wine collector but mainly I would like to drink and compart with friends.I have a very good friend in Spain with a fantastic collection of wine from Spain with verticals of Vega Sicilia since 1970 and when we are in his house we have a fantastic wines to try.The only problem is that even if I always bring him glasses from Austria ( Riedel,Zalto, etc) the wife only use the non proper for the dinner base on the price and the possibility to brake by the house keeper during cleaning. I always say to her that we have just spent probably about ¿1000 in wine but we can not afford to brake a glass of ¿20?. I have breakfeast every day with fresh bread and olive oil from Italy or Spain and I say any price is cheap for the pleasure during two weeks for breakfast.I am Spanish leaving now in Austria and I love wine and any mediterran way of leaving.Thank you for your excellent job on Italian wines.

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